REAL LIFE

The Travelling Bridesmaid Dress

I’ve worn my dress for 35 years!
  • When Rebecca Whitlinger was a bridesmaid at her friend’s wedding, she never expected to wear the sparkly frock ever again.
  • Deciding it needed one more chance to shine was the start of a wonderful adventure.
  • And 35 years on the dress has been worn more than 250 times across 13 different countries.

Here Rebecca tells her story in her own words.

As I cleaned out my wardrobe one day, something sparkly caught my eye.

It was the gold sequinned gown that I’d worn to my best friend’s wedding six months earlier, in July 1988.

Then aged 27, I’d initially hated the full-length dress, but as I’d danced the night away, with the candlelight on each table reflecting in my frock, I felt so glamorous.

Still I wondered where else would I get away with rocking a sparkly gold bridesmaid’s dress.

I’ll never wear it again, I’d thought, hanging it back in my wardrobe afterwards.

But now seeing it again, I decided it needed one more chance to sparkle!

But then I thought, Why stop at just once?

Having spent $150 on the custom-made gown, I wanted to get my money’s worth!

Besides, the sparkly frock would always remind me of my dear friend and her special day.

Walking past a construction site after work one day, I noticed a bunch of handsome guys with their power tools.

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Me and Patty in our dresses (Credit: Supplied)

This is my chance, I smiled, sure I was bound to turn some heads there.

But when I returned the next day with my bestie Patty, who’d also been a bridesmaid at the same wedding, the tradies were nowhere to be seen.

However I wasn’t going to let anything rain on my parade.

Spotting a bulldozer, I pulled the dress out of my backpack, slipped it on over the clothes I was wearing and posed for a photo.

As Patty snapped the pic, we couldn’t stop giggling.

Getting the photo printed a few days later, I loved seeing how the dress glistened in all its golden glory.

This gave me an idea…

Why not take the dress all over the world where it was sure to make other people smile?

If I can’t wear it anywhere, I’ll wear it everywhere, I thought.

I shared my idea with the bride who’s wedding I’d got the dress for, and she loved that I was going to get use out of something that would otherwise have just sat in my wardrobe for decades.

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Parasailing in Cancun, Mexico (Credit: Supplied)

From then on, I took the dress, which I’d switched to two-sleeved, everywhere I went.

As I loved to travel, that included the Eiffel Tower in France, and Machu Picchu in Peru.

But the fun didn’t stop there.

A keen adventurer, I also wore the glittering dress while scuba diving in the US, parasailing in Cancun, Mexico, riding camels in Morocco and skiing down the Swiss Alps.

I’ve even worn it to meet a lion and while white-water rafting!

‘Are you a princess?’ little girls often asked.

Packing the dress on every trip I took over the years, I loved whipping it out for a quick snap.

I even appeared in news articles all over the world!

‘You’re the bridesmaid!’ people said delightedly, recognising me from the newspapers.

Back home, my parents, Hamilton and Helen, were so proud.

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With a camel in Morocco (Credit: Supplied)

‘Have you worn it to the beach or on an airplane, or voted in the dress yet?’ my family and friends asked, giving me suggestions.

In 1999, I even had a book published titled Always A Bridesmaid: 89 Ways to Recycle That Bridesmaid Dress.

In it, I encouraged readers to give their bridesmaid gowns a second chance.

By then, I’d been delighted to be a bridesmaid six more times, so I had quite the dress collection to work with!

Using fabric from a yellow taffeta number I’d worn to my brother Bob’s wedding, I decorated a straw hat with handmade roses for summer.

I also made a cushion cover from the skirt.

Handy with a glue gun, I was often giving old clothes a new lease on life by whipping them into new favourites.

Repurposing two other bridesmaid dresses, I made an apron and even reupholstered my piano bench.

Still, despite it needing some slight tailoring over the years, I could never bring myself to cut up the now famous gold gown.

In fact, I’d grown so fond of it, I wore it while shopping for groceries and even when I had to get my driver’s licence and passport renewed.

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At Macchu Pichu, Peru (Credit: Supplied)

‘Are you filming a movie?’ people asked, watching as I placed groceries in my trolley.

Although I loved all the attention, I also wanted to use the publicity to help me raise awareness of an important cause.

So I donated a portion of the proceeds from my book to Cancer Bridges – a charity providing free emotional and social support services to anyone affected by cancer.

Incredibly, through sales and events, we raised a total of $110,000.

In 2003, I was at a friend’s wedding when I got chatting with a lovely guy called Philip.

Falling head over heels in love, I finally got to be a bride when we tied the knot in February 2008.

Sadly, Philip was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer, soon after.

The following year, my darling hubby lost his battle.

But I know he’s smiling down on me.

I’ve now been wearing my dazzling bridesmaid dress for 35 years – I’ve worn her more than 250 times across 13 different countries.

And while there are a few holes and missing sequins, it still has so much magic left in it. 

Keeping the dress in the boot of my car, I’m always ready for a photo op.

Life is too short to wear boring clothes!

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The dress in London (Credit: Supplied)

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